Stewart, N. Brown, G. D. A., & Chater, N. (2002). Sequence effects in categorization of simple perceptual stimuli. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 28, 3-11.

Categorization research typically assumes that the cognitive system has access to a (more or less noisy) representation of the absolute magnitudes of the properties of stimuli, and that this information is used in reaching a categorization decision. However, research on identification of simple perceptual stimuli suggests that people have poor representations of absolute magnitude information and that judgments about absolute magnitude are strongly influenced by preceding material. The experiments presented here show strong sequence effects in categorization tasks. Classification of a borderline stimulus was more accurate when preceded by a distant member of the opposite category than by a distant member of the same category. It is argued that this category contrast effect cannot be accounted for by extant exemplar or decision-bound models. The effect suggests the use of relative magnitude information in categorization. A memory and contrast model illustrates how relative magnitude information may be used in categorization.

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